Particle physics is the place where the leading edge of human understanding touches the fabric of the universe. But there’s a dilemma we face whenever physicists smash protons inside particle colliders: We can’t say that those experiments won’t accidentally trigger the end of the universe without a greater understanding of particle physics, and we can’t get a greater understanding of physics without smashing protons in particle colliders. You can see how this puts humanity in a ticklish position. Physicists have proposed a number of ways that a run in a particle collider could upset the current state of the universe, perhaps by creating a low-energy vacuum bubble that spreads out at the speed of light and disintegrates the universe we live in, or by birthing a microscopic black hole that stabilizes and slowly grows at the center of the Earth, permanently ruining the planet for our descendants a few hundred thousand years from now. We can’t fully say this won’t happen because we simply don’t understand physics well enough yet. In reaction to these suggestions, CERN – the group that oversees the Large Hadron Collider – has bent over backwards looking for something that shows the Large Hadron Collider is completely safe. And they think they’ve found they’re looking for elsewhere in the universe in a handful of dwarf stars. For the time being, we can only hope they’re right. (Original score by Point Lobo.)
- Don Lincoln, Fermi National Laboratory senior experimental particle physicist
- Ben Shlaer, University of Auckland cosmologist University of Auckland
- Daniel Whiteson, University of California, Irvine astrophysicist
- Eric Johnson, University of Oklahoma professor of law
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